Once a hot spot for crime, the former Aloha Motel property will be turned into a mix of affordable housing, offices and commercial space under new owner Bellingham Housing Authority.
In 2015, the City of Bellingham obtained the site under condemnation proceedings after declaring the Aloha a blight for housing criminal activity. The motel at 315 N. Samish Way was demolished the same year.
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“This project is a big win for the city,” Mayor Kelli Linville said Friday in announcing the city’s decision to pick the housing authority to redevelop the property.
“We’ve eliminated a magnet for crime and are now providing a wide range of housing options for the community, all while implementing the urban village plan,” Linville added.
The city’s decision was the latest turn for the property.
The Aloha was known for housing criminal and unsafe activity – drug deals, deadly overdoses, violence – but it also was one of the few places where people with little income and bad background checks could find a place to live.
The housing authority bought the property from the city for $1.83 million, using a loan obtained from the city’s low-income housing fund.
The authority will redevelop the triangular 66,000-square-foot site into a complex with more than 150 apartments and townhouses for residents with a range of incomes, new office headquarters for itself, a parking garage for tenants, and commercial spaces along North Samish Way.
There will be a combination of housing – from studio to up to three-bedroom. It will serve the housing needs of different populations.
Because money for the project is coming from the city’s low-income housing fund, known as the Bellingham Home Fund, most of the residents will earn less than 50 percent of the area median income, or $31,500 for family of three, for example.
The remaining 25 percent of the units will go to renters who make a maximum of 80 percent of the area median, or $50,350 for a family of three.
Some of the units also will be set aside in the following way:
▪ 30 for senior citizens.
▪ 15 for homeless families.
▪ 15 for households with someone who has a physical or mental impairment.
The property is part of the Samish Way Urban Village. City officials said the proposed development – with its design, pedestrian orientation and site layout – fulfills the community goals for the urban village.
“We look forward to being part of the exciting new Samish Way Urban Village,” said John Harmon, executive director of the Bellingham Housing Authority, in a news release.
He couldn’t be reached Friday for further comment.
Construction is expected to begin next year, and the property’s development will occur in phases.
The housing authority is seeking state and federal dollars for construction.
The motel opened in 1960 along Samish Way, which was known then as a busy car-oriented strip with numerous motels, eateries and gas stations.
In recent years, the Aloha’s reputation was as a place to avoid if you could help it.
The city started the process of shutting the Aloha in fall 2014 after spending nearly a year building up a case, documenting criminal activity through police reports and taking testimony from surrounding property owners.
Residents from the York and Sehome neighborhood associations pushed the city to do something about the motel because of drug use and other crimes, including the beating death of a man in one of its rooms in December 2013.
Criminal activity also bled into surrounding neighborhoods.
Nearby business owners reported regularly finding used needles and condoms on their properties, and at least 11 of the motel’s rooms – out of a total of 28 – were condemned because of methamphetamine contamination.